Business connectivity is the beating heart of the SME revolution. Is your Internet Service Provider helping you use it to drive profits or simply letting it become a drain on your expendable bank balance? Jarryd Chatz, CEO of BitCo, explores this question and explains how businesses can ensure they choose the right ISP.
New digital capabilities have blown the lid off the traditional start-up mentality, effectively levelling the playing field. Where business used to be conducted within a limited border, it has since transitioned to an infinite web and, according to the International Data Corporation, South African companies are expected to spend around $10bn populating this digitally connected business network in 2017.
With more prepaid options, WiFi hotspots and Fibre lines than ever before, internet connectivity is growing at an alarming rate. This opens the door to a previously untapped market of consumers and greater access to existing ones.
So, it makes sense that ICT products and services are getting a bump up the budget priority list, but do you know how your ISP could be negatively impacting the return on your investment?
Vague uptime guarantees tend to miss the mark
“Reliable” is a word a lot of ISPs throw around, but like “successful”, it’s a relative concept. Their idea of reliability might only be 80% uptime, while BitCo’s is 99%.
Without defined and agreed upon standards, you could find yourself running up a hefty phone bill and wasting productive hours to solve a problem that ends up costing you more than the initial cost saving.
External suppliers are as good as loopholes
Any ISP who is not a Tier 1 telecommunications operator uses external suppliers. This poses several threats to your bottom line. First, their assurances are limited or subject to change. If a supplier changes their offerings, your ISP may be forced to do the same, putting you in line for potential unforeseen costs.
Secondly, you won’t be able to place accountability squarely on their shoulders, because they can point the finger or pass the buck when something goes wrong. This makes recuperating lost funds a difficult, lengthy and often futile process.
The last inconvenience linked to a complicated supply-chain is a lack of priority. When it comes to contention, a carrier that uses third party suppliers cannot offer you an eternal greenlight, meaning that how and when you do business won’t always be up to you. This could get in the way of lucrative, time-sensitive opportunities.
Nothing stands without support
A house of cards stands well enough, as long as no pressure is applied. The same applies to your ISP agreement if you don’t get clarity on customer support. If you can’t respond to pressure quickly and in an effective manner, it could wreak havoc with your customer retention and conversion rates, as well as put a dent in your business’s reputation – all of which comes with a financial backlash.
Inflexible solutions block the way to progress
Integration and mobility are just two of the biggest trends businesses have had to adapt to in the last decade, and there will of course be more to come. These will force your business to evolve or to change its course in unexpected ways.
In this case, saving money in the long run means choosing an ISP with solutions that can change as you do. From wireless solutions that can run at 5Mbps to 100Mbps, or moving from IP to a virtual PBX – smooth transitions mean less budget dips.
Bigger is not always better
Large telecoms providers may be able to offer more affordable connectivity options, though less capabilities to customise solutions – not to mention less motivation to do so. This could result in you paying for more than you need to, or saving on some initial fees but having to settle for corner-cutting solutions instead of tailored ones.
At the end of the day, the competitive advantage SMEs have over large-scale and more established companies is their ability to adopt transformative technology with relative ease. That’s why it’s important for them to seek out service providers who enable that competitive edge, instead of those that hinder it, delivering little in the way of legitimately profitable products and services.